Sunday, March 3, 2019

Cougar Womens BBall Team Get 5 Seed at Nationals

Picture: Arthur Images 

U SPORTS announced Sunday its bracket for the 2019 U SPORTS Women's Final 8, with the University of Regina Cougars earning the No. 5 seed and matching up against No. 4-seeded Ottawa in the tournament quarterfinals.

Regina and Ottawa will match up on Thursday night (8:00 EST) in what will be the first meeting in history between the two teams on the championship side of the national tournament bracket.

"Ottawa was ranked No. 1 in the last national poll so obviously this is an extremely tough matchup," Cougars head coach Dave Taylor said. "They check all of the boxes - they have a big post, a dynamic point guard, a great stretch-four, and they're a well-coached, experienced group."

The two teams have already met this season. Regina won 63-53 on the road over the Gee-Gees in what was the Cougars' first non-conference game of the year, though Taylor was quick to point out that Ottawa was missing OUA first-team all-star Hilary Hanaka for that contest.

Both teams enter the national tournament after losing in their respective conference finals. The Cougars were edged 53-49 by Saskatchewan on Friday in Saskatoon, while Ottawa suffered a 79-75 home loss to McMaster on Saturday.

The winner of the Regina/Ottawa game will advance to the tournament semifinals on Saturday to face the winner of the Laval/Ryerson quarterfinal. Laval is the top seed, while host Ryerson enters as the No. 8 seed.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 McMaster will play No. 7 Concordia in one quarterfinal while No. 3 Saskatchewan will face No. 6 Acadia in the other.

NOTES: The only time Regina and Ottawa have met in a national tournament game was in the 2005 consolation semifinals in Winnipeg, which Ottawa won by a 66-64 score ... the Cougars will be playing in the 4/5 game for the third time in the last four seasons, as they were also seeded No. 5 in 2017 (72-62 loss to McGill) and were the No. 4 seed in 2016 (73-70 loss to Ryerson).


No. 1 Laval Rouge et Or

Playoff finish: RSEQ champions
Regular season / playoff records: 15-1 / 2-0
Last U SPORTS championship: Never
Team offence: 74.3 points/game, 14th
Team defence: 53.5 points allowed/game, 1st

Team Leaders
Points per game: Jane Gagné, 15.4
Rebounds per game: Khaleann Caron-Goudreau, 9.1
Assists per game: Claudia Emond, 3.9

The Laval Rouge et Or flirted with perfection in 2018-19, as they came close to the first undefeated season of their 48-year history. They lost a close call in their very last game of the season at McGill, to finish the year 15-1, good for first place in the RSEQ for a third year in a row and setting a new team record for points (1187) since the formalization of the 16-game season format in 2003.The Rouge et Or would finish off the season leading the conference in 16 different categories.

The Rouge et Or boast a mature team, led by RSEQ MVP fifth year guard Sarah-Jane Marois, the defensive player of the year and Texas Longhorns transfer Khaléann Caron-Goudreau, and Jane Gagné, the 2017 conference MVP and Laval leading scorer this year. Marois and Gagné were on the 2017 Rouge et Or team that won silver at the U SPORTS Championship.  

No. 2 McMaster Marauders

Playoff finish: OUA champions
Regular season / playoff records: 21-3 / 3-0
Last U SPORTS championship: Never
Team offence: 79.3 points/game, 3rd
Team defence: 59.0 points allowed/game, 9th

Team Leaders

Points per game: Sarah Gates, 17.1
Rebounds per game: Linnaea Harper, 8.2
Assists per game: Linnaea Harper, 4.0

The McMaster Marauders finished second in the OUA standings with a 21-3 record. The team would draw much of its success from its offensive dominance, while also demonstrating their ball control leading the nation in assists per game (18.5). The largest loss for the Marauders was just 14 points to Ottawa, who had the best record in the OUA. Subsequently the Marauders would capture a pair of 50-plus point wins in their final three weeks of the season to propel their momentum into the playoffs.

The Marauders would have an extra special end to the season, seeing two of their fifth-year seniors reach the 1,000 point club at the end of their OUA careers: Linnaea Harper and Hilary Hanaka who reached 1,003 and 1,136 points respectively. A third key player to keep an eye out for is Sarah Gates, ranked second in the OUA in points per game and leads the team infield goals/game and free throws/game.

No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies

Playoff finish: Canada West champions
Regular season / playoff records: 16-4 / 5-0
Last U SPORTS championship: 2016
Total U SPORTS championships: 1
Team offence: 81.3 points/game, 1st
Team defence: 55.7 points allowed/game, 3rd

Team Leaders

Points per game: Sabine Dukate, 15.6
Rebounds per game: Summer Masikewich, 8.2
Assists per game: Libby Epoch, 3.9

It was another dominant season for the Saskatchewan Huskies, who earned the Canada West No. 1 seed in the playoffs due to holding the highest RPI in the conference.  After starting the year 4-2, Saskatchewan went on a 12-game winning streak that stretched from Nov.16 – Jan.26. During that streak, Saskatchewan outscored their opponents 1073-594. Saskatchewan is in the U SPORTS Final 8 for the sixth straight season, with two medals from that stretch, including a gold medal in 2016 and second place last year. 

For the Huskies, Final 8 experience runs through the veins of many members of the roster. In particular, returning players Sabine DukateMegan AhlstromVera Crooks and Janaya Brown were all present on the 2016 national championship squad. Among those veterans, Dukate leads the team in field goals/game (5.8/13.9), points/game (15.6), was 3rd in the nation in three-point percentage (42.7) and was named the Canada West Player of the Year.

No. 4 Ottawa Gee-Gees

Playoff finish: OUA finalists
Regular season / playoff records: 21-2 / 2-1
Last U SPORTS championship: Never
Team offence: 77.4 points/game, 7th
Team defence: 56.1 points allowed/game, 4th

Team Leaders

Points per game: Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu, 14.0
Rebounds per game: Angela Ribarich, 7.2
Assists per game: Brooklyn McAlear-Fanus, 4.9

Turning in their best regular season performance in program history, the Ottawa Gee-Gees women's basketball team ascended to the top of the nation's rankings in the 2018-19 season. Their campaign has had two noteworthy runs – the first was following a two-point heartbreaking loss to Carleton in the first game of the season. The Gee-Gees refocused and reeled off 10 straight wins to close 2018 and kick off the New Year. Signature wins over Lakehead and McMaster highlighted the powerful first semester for the Garnet and Grey. In their second game of 2019, the Gee-Gees suffered their last loss of the regular season in Toronto to Ryerson, to which they responded to with an 11-win tour de force with a revenge win over the Rams and a big-time win at the Capital Hoops Classic against Carleton.

The team has yet to claim a national title but got close in 2012 when they claimed the bronze medal at the Women's Final 8 in Calgary. The offensive talents of Angela Ribarich who finished the regular season fifth in the country in field goal percentage (54.8) and second in blocks (44) will be a key player in Ottawa's hopes to bring home the programs first title.

No. 5 Regina Cougars

Playoff finish: Canada West finalists
Regular season/playoff records: 17-3 / 4-1
Last U SPORTS championship: 2001
Total U SPORTS championships: 1
Team offence: 79.7 points/game, 2nd
Team defence: 57.1 points allowed/game, 6th

Team Leaders

Points per game: Kyanna Giles, 18.4
Rebounds per game: Kyanna Giles, 8.8
Assists per game: Michaela Kleisinger, 3.9

The Cougars went to work over the regular season sitting amongst the top in the Canada West standings with a 17-3 record. The Cougars had an eight-game win streak to conclude the regular season, winning five of those contests by 20-plus points. While the team has demonstrated its offensive ability, it's their defensive talents that set them apart from the pack. They lead the nation in rebounds (51.3) and blocks (4.7).

With a similar squad to last year's team that won a bronze medal on home court, the familiar presence of third-year Guard Kyanna Giles' talents have been crucial in the team's success as she leads in six statistical categories. Giles is only the third player from the Cougars to win multiple Canada West First Team all-star selections. The program is no stranger to the women's Final 8, and the Cougars will be looking to build from last year's performance and look to win the their second national title.

No. 6 Acadia Axewomen

Playoff finish: AUS champions
Regular season / playoff records: 13-7 / 3-0
Last U SPORTS championship: Never
Team offence: 78.3 points/game, 5th
Team defence: 69.8 points allowed/game, 31st

Team Leaders

Points per game: Haley McDonald, 23.3
Rebounds per game: Sarsha Cadle, 7.5
Assists per game: Haley McDonald, 3.7

The Axewomen finished third in the AUS standings with a 13-7 record and had a seven-game win streak before dropping their final four games of the season to Cape Breton, UPEI and UNB. However, the team finished first in the conference in field goals/game (28.5), rebounds/game (40.8), assists/game (17.1), and steals/game (10.1).

While the team had its ups and down this season, it proved a monumental one for third-year guard, Haley McDonald, who now owns the team record for points scored in a single season record (465). The team will look to McDonald to build from last year's Final 8 experience after bowing out in the quarterfinals to Saskatchewan.

No. 7 Concordia Stingers

Playoff finish: RSEQ finalists / at-large berth
Regular season / playoff records: 10-6 / 1-1
Last U SPORTS championship: Never
Team offence: 65.6 points/game, 27th
Team defence: 60.4 points allowed/game, 10th

Team Leaders

Points per game: Myriam Leclerc, 18.8
Rebounds per game: Lodanna Lamonth, 9.2
Assists per game: Myriam Leclerc, 4.6

The Concordia Stingers makes its first appearance at the national championship since 1999.
Under the guidance of head coach Tenicha Gittens, Concordia finished second in the Quebec conference with a 10-6 record. The Stingers were ranked in the Top 10 for 12 of 13 weeks this season and peaked at No. 2 for three weeks. They wrapped up the regular season in the No. 10 spot. 

Concordia has a good balance of youth and experience. They have depended on RSEQ Rookie of the Year and first team all-star Myriam Leclerc, a five-foot-10 guard, to lead them alongside third-year guard Caroline Task, also a first team all-star. They finished first and third in conference scoring, averaging 18.8 and 15.6 points a game, respectively. 

A never-say-die team that plays aggressively and emphasizes defence, Concordia should not be underestimated

No. 8 Ryerson Rams

Playoff finish: OUA quarterfinalists / Hosts
Regular season / playoff records: 17-6 / 1-1
Last U SPORTS championship: Never
Team offence: 73.0 points/game, 17th
Team defence: 57.1 points allowed/game, 5th

Team Leaders

Points per game: Sofia Paska, 13.3
Rebounds per game: Sofia Paska, 7.8
Assists per game: Hayley Robertson, 4.3

The Ryerson Rams had a tough final weekend of their regular season dropping two straight games to York and Queen's to finish 17-6. The Rams began the season off strong on a nine-game win streak demonstrating their depth of an offence which finished third in the conference in field goal percentage (40.6). The Rams would dominate the first round of playoffs with an 85-40 win over Laurentian before losing to the Carleton Ravens in the OUA quarterfinals.

This will be the last season for three veteran superstars on the Rams: Sofia Paska, Katherine Follis and Cara Tiemens who were all part of the 2016-17 team that won the team's first OUA title and placed second at the National Championship.

(U of |R Athletics/USports Canada)

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